Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Panhard 1907

The first automobile manufacturer in France was Panhard-Levassor and is only second in the world to Daimler-Benz. These two companies worked together sharing ideas and designs and Daimler actually supplied Panhard with engines during their first years of production.

Panhard-Levassor was an established woodworking and machinist firm. They constructed their first prototype automobile in 1890, and production vehicles in 1891. By 1900, the firm had over 850 employees and were building 75 cars per month. Even at this capacity, they were unable to keep up with demand. One of their earliest customers was the Honorable C.S. Rolls who, a few years later, would build his own car, the Rolls-Royce.

Along with being an early producer of automobiles, they were also leaders in technological advancements with one of the first driveshafts instead of chain-drive and the first to use a pressed-steel chassis frame. They used racing to promote their produce and captured many significant wins in many early races, including the Paris-Bordeaux Race.

The work performed by the French firm of Panhard et Levassor aided in the technical evolution of the automobile. The work that they did and the innovations that they produced helped acceleration the popularity of the automobile.

Automobile production in France had its advantages. The roadways were far superior to many other countries which led to a quicker acceptance of the automobile. Racing soon became popular, as did car clubs. Racing became one of the major means of advertisements, and it was often said that how an automobile finished during the weekend dictated the sales during the weekday.

There was a close working relationship between Emile Levassor and Gottlieb Daimler. Both were mechanically gifted and together designed and created some of the earliest known examples of the combustion engine. Experimentation and perfection continued during the 1890's. Levassor preferred placing the engine in the front of the vehicle while Daimler's designs had the engine located under the seat.

During an automobile race in 1897, Levassor was seriously injured and died a short time after. The company continued to produce automobiles but their importance in the automotive industry declined. In 1965 it was taken over by Citroen SA.

Though their importance in history was destined to decline, their period of innovation was truly remarkable. The vehicles they produced during the early 1900s were among the best in the world, with their top of the line being the 50HP model. It was debuted at the 1904 Paris Salon and drew its design and mechanical inspiration from their 13.5- and 15.5-liter racing cars. The '50HP' was powered by a 10.6-liter engine that meant each of its four cast-iron cylinders had a displacement size of 2.6-liters each. The engine was mated to a four-speed gearbox with a cone clutch similar to the setup used in Panhard's racing program. Two very sturdy chains were used to turn the rear wheels.

The 25/30HP cars followed in the 50HP's footsteps, by offering refinement and luxurious touches that were virtually unmatched. The four-cylinder engine breathed through a Maybach spray carburetor and fitted to a four-speed manual gearbox. The power from the engine was sent to the rear wheels through twin-chains. Braking was performed by operating a hand-brake on the shaft.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2011

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